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September 2000 Issue
Caraway -- Carum carvi
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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You know, I chat regularly with a transplanted Scotsman. I say transplanted because while he is a Scot, he lives in Germany, in a place called Celle. We chat about many things since we have a lot in common, but one of our main topics of conversation is food -- its preparation, its enjoyment, what goes into it and how much one can get out of it. We quite often compare notes and exchange recipes. He's VERY good. Remind me some time to give you his special Christmas duck recipe. With his permission, of course, and presupposing that one of us actually can find it!!

When I was starting to research this month's column, he and I were chatting and got onto the topic of German cooking. I think I mentioned a sauerbraten I was marinating and we went from there. Looking for a spice or herb that was a common thread in German cuisine, he suggested kummel -- which with a bit of effort I translated to caraway. Et voila'!! We had this column. The recipes are Steven's. The general info research is mine. Together I think we've got a dynamite column!!

The plant itself is rather weedy looking. It has thread-like bright green leaves that look a bit like carrot tops but in flavour are sort of a cross between dill and parsley. The stems can be anywhere from 18 - 30 inches high and are topped with clusters of small white flowers. It's these flowers which will eventually produce the tiny ribbed seeds we are familiar with.

To harvest caraway, cut the heads when the seeds first start to turn brown. Turn them upside down a newspaper and shake the seeds loose. Make sure they are completely dry then store them in an airtight container.

The early Greeks used a caraway tisane to calm upset stomach and flatulence and the seeds themselves were used to season foods that were hard to digest. Today we still do this, although perhaps unknowingly, by adding it to rye breads, cabbage dishes, pork, cheese sauces, cream soups such as split pea or lentil and duck, or add it to dumplings, noodle dishes, goulashes and salads. In fact, it is among the very few spices that successfully bridge the gap between sweet and savoury so that you can find it in recipes for sweets and cakes as well.

The following recipes are all from my friend Steven, reproduced here exactly the way he sent them to me. Where there are references that I think are particular to Europe, I have tried to give the equivalent. With the exception of the odd recipe which will indicate otherwise, these recipes serve four people. In some recipes powdered caraway is called for and while it's not readily available everywhere, it can be easily made just by grinding caraway seed in a coffee grinder as you would with other spices. Or, alternatively you can try one of the many mail order sources that are on the Web such as Penzey's and The American Spice Company.


Puff Pastry Cheese Sticks

For the Pastry
  • 1 packet of frozen puff pastry
  • Some plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Caraway seeds
For the Filling
  • 40 g grated emmentaler cheese or some similar cheese
  • 40 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 level teaspoon sweet paprika powder
  • Some fresh ground pepper
Heat the oven to 220° C - 425° F.

Thaw the Puff Pastry and roll on the flour to about 20cm x 40cm.

Brush the Pastry with the egg yolk.

Spread the grated Cheese over one half of the Pasty and season with the Paprika and Pepper.

Fold the other half over the Cheese and roll over it a few times with the Rolling pin.

Cut into 1/2" strips.

Twirl the strips into Spirals and lay on the (with cold water doused) baking sheet.

Brush them with egg yolk, sprinkle with Caraway seeds and bake till they are golden brown.

Check the colour after about 6 - 8 min.

Serve cold or hot with a spicy dip, and a good chilled wine.


Potato Omelette
  • 800g potatoes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable fat (I prefer to use Sunflower margarine)
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of white pepper
  • 1 tablespoonful of caraway powder
  • 3 eggs
Peel, slice and wash the potatoes, then leave to drain.

Heat the fat, and the potatoes and season with salt pepper and caraway.

Beat the eggs and stir into the potatoes, allow to set.

Turn the omelette and fry the other side.

As a variation add in some chopped bacon or roast leftovers.

Fried Raw Potatoes
  • 800g potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of caraway
  • 3-4 tablespoonfuls of vegetable fat
Peel, wash and slice the Potatoes, leave to drain.

Heat the fat, dice the Onion and fry for a about a minute till they are glassy.

Add the Potatoes and salt, cover and leave to fry for about 10 min.

Remove the lid add the Caraway season with black pepper and fry for a further 5 min turning often.

Dress with the Parsley and serve.

This recipe is for 2 people -- or 1 if it is for me!
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of red paprika strips
  • 1 small pickled gherkin
  • 2 pork chops (about 200g each)
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a pinch of dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway powder
  • 1 cup of precooked cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable fat
  • 1/2 cup of beer (preferably a good German Beer)
Drain the paprika strips, rinse the chops with cold water and dab dry, and cut into the fat at the edge, cut the gherkin into slim strips, rub the pepper and marjoram into the meat. Heat the fat to a high temperature and fry the chops each side for about 1 min. Reduce the heat by about half and let them fry for about another 5min. each side adding the Beer bit by bit. Remove the chops from the frying pan, salt them both sides and keep warm. Add the cabbage, paprika strips, gherkin and caraway to the pan, heat well and serve over the chops. Serve with freshly baked Ciabatta and a Glass of chilled Beer. (Original Budweiser [Budwar] is the best)
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